The Assembly on Tuesday unanimously adopted a special resolution urging the Centre to keep the Dam Safety Bill, 2018, in abeyance until the concerns raised over the legislation by Tamil Nadu and other States are addressed.
The resolution, proposed by Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, was supported by all Opposition parties, including the DMK, the Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).
Issue of State’s rights
The resolution contended that certain clauses of the Bill affected the interests of Tamil Nadu and could potentially affect the State’s rights on control and maintenance of dams located in neighbouring States.
Mr. Palaniswami said Tamil Nadu had been consistently opposing various clauses of the Bill, and that the inputs of the State government were not sought while drafting it.
Listing the steps being taken by Tamil Nadu to increase the height of the Mullaperiyar dam to 152 feet from its current height of 142 feet following a Supreme Court judgment, he said that the draft Bill, in the guise of facilitating dam safety, would affect the State’s prospects in controlling the Mullaperiyar, Parambikulam, Thoonakkadavu and Peruvaripallam dams.
DMK Deputy Floor Leader Duraimurugan said the actions of the Central government were ‘dictatorial’ and against federal principles. He questioned why the Centre had not called a meeting of Chief Ministers, if not a meeting of Public Works Department Ministers, to discuss the matter.
Congress Legislative Party leader K.R. Ramasamy welcomed the resolution, saying the issue concerned the livelihood of farmers. IUML legislator K.A.M. Muhammed Abubacker (Kadayanallur) also backed the resolution. Later in the day, Mr. Palaniswami wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding the resolution adopted in the Assembly. “I look forward to your positive response in this matter,” he said in his letter.
When the Centre had sought the State’s inputs on the Bill in 2016, the then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had flagged certain issues, particularly a clause that allowed the National Dam Safety Authority to inspect the dams situated across intra-State rivers, even when they were being operated and maintained by the respective State governments.
Contending that the proposed National Dam Safety Authority and the National Committee on Dam Safety would not be able to resolve disputes over the operation of dams, the State government had noted that every State already had a designated body for dam safety, which was functioning in line with the guidelines of the Central Water Commission. Though the Centre had proposed a Bill on dam safety in 2010 and sought inputs from Tamil Nadu, the State opposed the Bill, and the proposal was eventually dropped.